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Dead Zone

 |  NCR Today

People keep hanging up on me these days. OK, it only happened twice. I am used to my calls getting dropped. But for someone to hang up on me? The nerve!

A couple of weeks ago I got a text message that told me I had won a gift card from Wal-Mart and told me to call an 800 number to claim it. My scam alert turned on, but an 800 number seemed fairly innocuous. The woman who answered had an Indian accent and my alert went up a notch.

“Madam, my name is Nala and you are the lucky winner of a $20 gift card and a $50 gas voucher from Wal-Mart!” she said.

“Please tell me Nala that I don’t have to give you my credit card number,” I responded in a terse tone.

“Not to be skeptical, madam! Not to be skeptical! You have won! But yes, of course we need your credit card number because there is a $2 processing fee and we will send you the $20 gift card and $50 gas voucher!”

She tried to keep talking but I interrupted and said, “I have an idea. Why don’t you deduct the $2 fee and send me a gift card for $18 and the gas voucher and we can call it even?”

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Silence. She had hung up on me. The sound of dead air. The nerve.

I did send Wal-Mart an email about the call; they answered and said there were hundreds of scams and to be wary. Uh huh.

The next call a few days ago was from a woman who did not give her name. She sounded a little nervous at first but then hit her stride.

“Someone gave me the flyer with your program of movie Bible nights: The Ten Commandments and Film and I am shocked that you would show such films!”

“Have you seen any of these films?” I asked.

“No! Well, yes. Someone told me that the “Jerry Maguire” movie was about Irish people but when I saw that these people were having sex and fighting, I realized it wasn’t,” she said. “I walked out. I cannot believe that you would show such immoral films. I don’t need to see these films to know they are immoral.

“Don’t you know, Sister, that to see sin is to commit a sin? “

“Do you really believe that?” I asked her.

“Yes!”

I sensed she was going to hang up so I started talking very fast. I began to explain that these films were chosen because they address themes that the Ten Commandments speak to, that “Jerry Maguire” (tenth commandment) is about a man who has an awakening, he grows and changes.

“I don’t care; all that sin was awful!” the woman responded.

“Are you aware of the Church’s teaching about media?” I asked.

She didn’t let me finish. “Of course I know what the Church teaches! I don’t want to discuss this. You nuns should be watching EWTN.”

More dead air emanating from the telephone in my hand.

The story of the Wal-Mart scam has a golden edge. When I used it in a presentation about new media and the new evangelization recently the audience howled. I did try to set the lady on the straight and narrow but she was not ready to listen. She probably had so many calls waiting that she cut her losses and moved on. It was pretty funny.

Now the woman who called to complain in a “hit and run” fashion about the films in our movie Bible night program, that was more problematic. She had already made up her mind and had no intention of hearing another perspective.

But what was especially troubling was her statement: “To see a sin is to commit a sin.” How does a woman like this live in the world? What is her image of God?

I bet she has never read a word of church teaching on media and on the morality of the representation of evil (Communio et Progressio, 57) or encountered the Catholic novelist Flannery O’Connor’s take on the subject of the novel that I think can be extended to film:

“Pornography and violence and anything else in excess are all sins against form, and I think they ought to be approached as sins against art rather than sins against morality,”

or:

“I’m not one to pit myself against St. Paul but when he said, ‘Let it not so much be named among you.’ I presume he was talking about society and what goes on there and not about art. Art is not anything that goes on ‘among’ people, not the art of the novel anyway. It is something that one experiences alone and for the purpose of realizing in a fresh way, through the senses, the mystery of existence. Part of the mystery of existence is sin. When we think about the Crucifixion, we miss the point of it if we don’t think about sin.”

(Both quotes are from O’Connor’s letters in The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor.)

Closed minds equal closed phones. It results in a cycle of closed communication: a dead zone.

Just so you know, if you call and hang up on me, I will blog about you.

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